Firstly, I decided to make the visit to this ‘catwalk’ because all around was the talk about the war. The net and Idiot Box were ‘over-reporting’ it in a bid to capture more and more eyeballs. The photos of the latest Afghan victims were on all major newspapers.

Uncle Sam was showing off his latest warplanes dropping those merciless cluster bombs on the civilians. They had to employ whatever face-saving techniques it took them to get over with the disgrace that had fallen upon them. And to add to the mess, the contagious worms were delivered door-to-door even at government offices. Here was a big irony: the Afghans were attacked with massive missiles and bombs, the Americans were terrorized with minute worms. But the sad part: in both cases it was the innocent civilians who were victimized.

From all these clamor and clutter of war , my mind wanted a break. And this catwalk by the little ones was perhaps the best choice I had.

It was bright and sunny morning when the show was held. There was something unique about this catwalk. It was not the normal beast-like catwalk where nothing but the flesh was measured. Not the show hyped by the media.

In this show, the participants never had to put up a show! They were as they were- pure of heart and intentions. They had not grown enough to become the victims of the Accursed One. Of course, they were instructed to act as so and so, but they never did so successfully.

From the looks of the participants, it was hard to say whether the attire was decide by the parent or oneself. Many a time in life, this was the case. Some adorn costumes of dress and manners to please others or to imitate what one considers superior. They fine-tune their head and heart, smile and tear, love and hate based on a borrowed culture.

The Moms were very eager, but dads did hardly bother. After all, the art of ‘beautiful attire’ is more aspiring for the female mind than masculine body.

Since the participants were First Graders, tears and screaming were not unexpected. Some cried, other smiled as they got ready to face the show

The show began- for the little ones by the little ones. They came and went- and judges hardly got a minute to mark them according to their talent. Unlike the beauty contests, no questions were asked or else the participants would become victims of an identity crisis- were they the real life character or the one in their attire? The fear that usually haunts today’s youths: did they belong to their friends or parents, were they shaped by the culture at home or the college, were the inspired by the material West or spiritual East…

The personalities presented include a teacher, a housemaid, bride, vegetable seller, chef, bride, joker, Charlie Chaplin, doctor, singer, miss world…

The show was over and winners were to be announced. Everyone held their breath- the teachers and parents eager to know the fruits of their efforts. The prizes were given. The mother and teacher held their children closer: the little ones had enlightened their name and fame.

When everything was over, there was nothing left to bother.

Except that while walking out of the this modest educational institution, I looked back again to refresh memories. The buildings had changed. And so did some people around. But my memories since grade 2 of schooling was associated with this place. I too was once only as ‘old’ as these little ones. It only takes a few seconds to recall one’s experiences, even if it means traveling back 15 plus years in time. Isn’t it?

This essay was written on Oct 30th after a visit to the fancy dress competition organized by a Sharjah based Indian school on 21 Oct 2001.